16. "A STONY
DEATH" -- Mar. 22, '42
P1: Before the Earthman could dodge,
Grombo's hands had clutched him and swung him crazily overhead. Then the
great beast flung its victim through the air. Dejah Thoris, seeing her
chance, leaped to her feet.
P2: With a bellow rage, Grombo charged
after his escaping prize.
P3: Carter landed unhurt upon the debris
of a crumbled building. Here he looked down upon the race below.
P4: The Earthman saw a desperate chance
to aid the girl. He toppled a huge stone.
P5: As it fell on one end of the petrified
log, the ape was hurled into the vapor pit.
P6: Immune only to an average amount
of gas, the brute was turned to stone by the concentrated vapor!
P7: When John Carter reached the ground,
Dejah Thoris had vanished; and although he called, only taunting echoes
came from the street of standing dead.
1. The illustration
in panel 5 of strip #16 shows Grombo being hurled into a gas geyser. In
order for Carter to have been certain that the ape was turned to stone,
the creature must have not disappeared entirely into the pit. The novelization
can mention his stony hand protruding from the gasses, or some such indication
of his fate.
2. The animals
shown in the last panel, in the "street of the standing dead," do not confirm
to any described by ERB for his Barsoom. The novelization should offer
some explanation of them.
"A STONY DEATH"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
The terrible swiftness of the great
white ape was beyond Captain Carter's comprehension. He had seen these
monsters while with the Tharks at Korad. One had even attempted to kill
him, an attack that might have proven successful, if not for Woola's timely
arrival. But Grombo, crippled as he obviously was in his stiff hands and
feet by the purple vapors, could still move faster than John Carter's eye
could follow. Again the brute came at him, and before the Earthman could
dodge, Grombo's hands had clutched him and swung him crazily overhead.
The Jasoomian flew through the air head first, directly into the face of
an ersite wall.
These fast-paced events were transpiring
as the red princess was still plodding along to the hoped for safety of
the nearby shadows. Having flung one of its victims mercilessly through
the air, the great beast turned to see what had happened to the other.
With a bellow of rage, Grombo charged after his escaping female prize.
A half hour had passed since the warnings of his two fellows had interrupted
the ape's passionate intentions. In that span the animal's throbbing lust
had visibly increased. He was ready to have his way with the female then
and there. Two pairs of hairy hands reached down to clutch the rigid, worn-out
There are times when circumstances
become so unexpectedly providential that not even the most ardent skeptic
might refrain from giving all the credit to unseen higher powers. John
Carter's headlong plunge into a wall of the hardest stone on Mars was broken
by a petrified banner pole that snagged one of his sandal straps and redirected
his course into the debris of a crumbled building. As the reader may recall,
much of Go-La-Ra is covered in an age old accumulation of petrified insects,
birds and small animals. This crunchy rubbish is abrasive, but it by no
means provides so hard a landing spot as would a slab of solid ersite.
John Carter arose well scratched and bruised but in no way seriously injured.
In the plaza the thoat cart boasting the petrified pole and banner stood
unmoved, just as it had stood before the building of Stonehenge was ever
conceived of back on Captain Carter's home planet. However, the most remarkable
event was yet to follow.
Having landed a couple of stories above
ground level, John Carter was able to look down upon the plaza with a better
sense of the placement of things than he had while facing the ape on the
pavement. From his new vantage point he could see that the public square
below was actually an extension of the same broad avenue and plaza where
he had first encountered the standing dead. In short, the two plazas were
but opposite ends of a vast L-shaped open space in the southern neighborhoods
of Go-La-Ra. But the more important (and providential) thing that the Earthman
caught sight of had nothing to do with the standing dead. What he saw from
his spot atop the ruined building was that Grombo was just then standing
at one end of a long, dislocated stone beam which had long ago fallen from
the facade of the crumbled building upon which Carter had landed. Just
a little past the far end of the beam crouched Dejah Thoris, half hidden
in the ruins bordering the plaza. The beast was almost within striking
distance of the poor girl already.
Without stopping to think exactly how
the mechanics of the wild idea that had entered his mind might work out,
the Earthman took a desperate chance to aid the girl. He toppled a huge
stone onto the near end of the beam, almost directly below his landing
point. Down fell the weighty block, coming to a sudden, crashing halt at
the near extremity of the long hunk of stone work. The happy effects of
this impact far exceeded John Carter's wildest hopes. The beam quivered
but did not break; instead, the far end sprang into the air at least twenty
feet, vaulting the ape back onto the end of the plaza, quite a distance
from the motionless princess.
This remarkable sequence of events
was followed by a conclusion to the struggle with the white ape that the
bronzed swordsman could not have anticipated had he offered a hundred different
"Beyond belief!" shouted the overjoyed
Jasoomian observer from the ruined building. "Ares must truly deliver the
star-crossed fighting man in times of peril!"
The great hulking body of the ape had
landed on the rim of the smoking geyser. It teetered there, as if it were
already unbending stone, and then Grombo the great white ape slid to his
doom inside the pit of the geyser. Immune only to an average amount of
the purple gas, the brute was solidly calcified by the concentrated vapor,
ere his sliding body came to rest in the bowels of Barsoom. Such are the
unbidden whims of the nameless providence which has ever preserved the
bold swordsman from Virginia!
John Carter made his way down from
the immense pile of rubble as quickly as he could, stopping only once in
the plaza to recover the sturdy Orovarian long-sword. While picking his
way though the ruins he came across yet another of the many cisterns of
yellow oil that the ancients stocked their city with so abundantly. He
wondered if there was yet time to swathe Dejah Thoris in its life preserving
But when John Carter reached the ground,
Dejah Thoris had vanished; and although he called, only taunting echoes
came from the plaza of the standing dead.
The Princess of Helium never saw the
remarkable end that came to her monstrous abductor. Had she seen his stony
demise, she might have gained some small measure of satisfaction, after
having suffered so grievously at the hands of the white ape. Then again,
the maiden possessed a sense of compassion unusual on the dying red planet.
Having already experienced the pernicious effects of the deadly mists of
Go-La-Ra, she would not have wished that stony curse upon any living thing.
The calcification worked in two different
ways, both of which either slowed down a living thing to make it an easy
prey of predators, or else eventually rendered it a statue. In the first
case the chemicals of the mist deposited a visible layer of thin gray shell
upon a body's skin and hair -- a shell that grew in thickness not so much
from its visible surface outward as from its lower surface into the poor
victim's flesh and other tissues. In the second case, the inhaled fumes
worked to stiffen the muscles and other inner connective tissues, so as
to make all movements slow and painful. For the semi-immune creatures that
infested the dead city, the process might take months or years to work
its spell of death. For Dejah Thoris the dreadful calcification took only
In the icy caves of polar Mars dwells
a spider-like animal that injects its various prey with a paralyzing poison
which prevents their moving, but which takes days to kill them. During
those awful days of total rigidity the poor animal or human slowly loses
the ability to breathe. Since the victim's vital functions slow down greatly
during the period of deterioration, little oxygen is necessary for survival
and most hings which are thus poisoned remain perfectly conscious, though
fully paralyzed, until they draw their final breath. Dejah Thoris could
only hope for a swifter end.
The shadows into which she had retreated
for safety proved to be mostly the result of the screening body of a creature
thrice the size of the apes of Go-La-Ra. Overwhelmed by the rigors of being
transported nude for hours through the frigid Barsoomian night, along with
her seemingly endless ordeal in the clutches of Grombo and the debilitating
effects of the purple vapors, Dejah Thoris did not so much as lift a finger
when the giant talons closed tightly around her.